Nancy White Carlstrom's The Way to Wyatt's House
illustrated by Mary Morgan-Vanroyen
Children's book review by Justine Greer
Two brothers set off on a trip to their best friend’s house, enjoying the serenity and quiet music of nature. They arrive at their destination amid their buddy’s happy shouts and suddenly all that was quiet and peaceful is noisy and raucous… but not without its own music.
The Way to Wyatt's House reads as a full, busy day of exploration, merry-making and love, culminating in a comfy sunset ride home.
The initial journey to Wyatt’s house sees the boys examining insects, mountaineering on a conveniently placed log, enjoying those open-air adventures that the very young are so adept at engineering.
Once joined up with the titular Wyatt, the boys’ fun becomes noisier and includes a cast of adorably-drawn non-human pals. Absolutely nothing sad happens in this book!
Such an anti-climactic storyline would tend to denote a lack of plot, but here is the exception that proves the rule: The Way to Wyatt’s House succeeds because it tells of that one perfect day in a childhood, shared with family and the best of buddies, merely being themselves and enjoying the company of one another.
Its cheerful characters, beautifully rendered autumnal backdrop and lively barnyard folk give off nothing so much as the whiff of friendly accessibility.
One-by-one farm animals pop by to join in the fun, adding their own God-given music in a proudly repetitive way that little readers will appreciate; nowhere is this better presented than in a double-page spread showcasing a joyous child-and-critter concert.
Relationships between characters, both human and animal, are loving and inclusive; a particularly nice touch is the almost invisible presence of the boys’ mom, who lags behind the brothers to give them just the right amount of secure freedom and avoid cramping their style.
The transition from “quiet” to “loud” saves the book from being just another slice of life, “the day we went for a walk” book, and turns it instead into a joyful celebration of a long autumn day full of possibilities.
Life’s innate music is embraced, be it the tiny sound of dandelion fluff riding the breeze or the welcoming yells of a much-loved friend. Neither the quiet parts of the book nor the loud are presented as holding more potential for fun or happiness, relating the subtle message that it is fine to find enjoyment in the mild and the wild equally.
For the child who enjoys reflective or solitary pursuits, or the child who bounces off the wall from morning til night, Wyatt offers the reassurance that what he or she enjoys is okay.
For the busy parent, The Way to Wyatt's House is a reminder that the simple joys of childhood exploration and experimentation should be encouraged, since all too quickly those long promising days fill up with work and worry.
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